Giving you the knowledge and skills to make a difference in marine conservation.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study
Subject marketing image

With the increasing variety and scale of human activities that affect marine environments it is vital that we have scientists who are able to take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding, monitoring and regulating impacts on marine biodiversity.

Run in collaboration with key conservation and management bodies, this MSc programme will provide you with an understanding of the issues that are central to marine conservation, and will develop practical skills and analytical ability that you can apply to real-world situations. You will learn from renowned researchers and leading practitioners, and will gain deep insight into a wide range of marine ecosystems in Scotland and internationally.

The programme will suit individuals looking to work in conservation bodies, environmental consultancies, government agencies, or progress to PhD research, as well as professionals who are keen to refocus their knowledge and skills on conservation of marine biodiversity.

What You'll Study

The taught part of our programme requires students to take eight compulsory courses over two semesters to develop a sound understanding of key issues and acquire essential skills. A special feature of the programme is a new course in marine conservation management, which runs through both semesters, and aims to build confidence, skills and experience to engage effectively with stakeholders in a professional role.

Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses
Experimental Design and Analysis (BI5009)

15 Credit Points

This course is uniquely tailored for biologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical skills relevant to modern ecology and biology. The unique format of example-led lectures and real-world based practicals will provide you with a foundation to become confident and proficient in analysing real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and generalised linear modelling frameworks to analyse biological data with emphasis on robust and reproducible research methods.

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Population Ecology (ZO5304)

15 Credit Points

The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which each reflect areas of current research in animal ecology. The content of the course is research-based, drawing on case studies from research-active staff within the School of Biological Sciences. The topics cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory.

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Marine and Fisheries Ecology, Conservation and Management (ZO5012)

15 Credit Points

Using the North Sea as a case study, one of the most well studied marine ecosystems, students will critically evaluate key issues related to the conservation and management of marine resources.

Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management provide insights into current issues.

Practical work provides training in data recording and analysis and the feedback received on your scientific report will strengthen your written communication skills.

Class debate will provide an opportunity to strengthen your critical thinking skills and support the development of strong oral communication skills.

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Optional Courses

In addition to the compulsory courses, you will also choose from a diverse range of elective courses according to your individual interests and learning objectives.

Statistics for Complex Study Designs (BI5302)

15 Credit Points

This highly regarded course will take your understanding of statistics to the next level and provide you with the skills and confidence to analyse your complex biological data. Through a combination of lectures, computer based practicals and group work you will gain an understanding of how to deal with pervasive issues in the analysis of real world biological data such as heterogeneity of variance and spatial and temporal non-independence. Hands on computer tutorials will allow you to apply statistical models using modern statistical software (R) to real data, collected by researchers to answer real biological questions.

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Molecular Ecological Techniques (EK5301)

15 Credit Points

The course will develop the student’s awareness of how molecular genetic techniques, including modern ‘omics technologies, can be used to inform our understanding of aspects of ecology, evolution, population biology and conservation science. The course will describe the underlying central dogma of molecular biology that explains how genetic diversity arises and can be harnessed as molecular markers. It will then review the contribution of molecular genetics in individual, population and species level studies.

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Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses
Marine Conservation Management (ZO5809)

15 Credit Points

Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current issues in marine conservation and how conservation professionals engage with these issues.

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Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Structured workshops provide you with opportunities to become familiar with ArcGIS software and to build your employability.

An individual project allows you to explore a specific application that you are interested in and demonstrate your proficiency with the software and your command of the conceptual underpinnings.

Flexible teaching and learning environment allows for individualised learning and enrichment for students with existing skills in GIS.

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Optional Courses

Marine Biodiversity

In this course, students will learn about the diversity of life in our oceans from an evolutionary and ecological perspective, and link this knowledge to conservation biology. First, students will learn how to use genetic data to catalogue species diversity and explore evolutionary relationships among marine groups. Next, students will learn about the diverse ways in which marine animals are adapted to their environment and how this is linked to the biogeographical patterns we see. Lastly, students will gain an understanding of the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity and current methods for detecting these impacts. This course pulls from themes in taxonomy, phylogenetics, evolutionary biology, ecology, and conservation genetics.

Marine Spatial Management (ZO5518)

15 Credit Points

You develop an appreciation of the level of understanding of the physical and biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable ecosystem-base management, conservation and effective marine spatial planning.

Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management provide insights into current issues.

Practical work provides training in use of R, Excel, data analysis and strengthens your written communication skills.

Group and individual working strengthen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and support the development of strong oral communication.

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Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510)

15 Credit Points

This course looks at current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society. We will explore diverse topics, including how ecology is changing, sustainability science, interdisciplinary approaches, citizen science, policy workshop, communicating science, conservation conflicts and data visualisation.

Sessions are composed of lectures and workshops from staff and guest speakers, and structured in-class activities, which will challenge you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives. These will increase your capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Four short discussion essays are required; you will get detailed feedback for improving your writing skills. Weekly student-led discussions allow you to develop your capacity for attentive exchange, informed argument and reasoning, and skills in facilitating discussion.

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Fisheries Science (ZO5806)

15 Credit Points

The course, which includes a significant contribution from Marine Scotland’s Science’s Marine Laboratory Aberdeen, introduces students to the essential elements of fisheries science. It consists of three main sections: fishing technology and behaviour, fishery independent methods, and stock assessment techniques. Ultimately it will equip students with the basic knowledge and skills required to assess the abundance and distribution of fish and to understand key elements of the provision of advice for fisheries management.

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Marine Biodiversity (ZO5820)

15 Credit Points

This course will introduce you to the vibrant marine life in tropical, temperate and polar ecosystems on our planet, from both an evolutionary and ecological perspective. It gives you the opportunity to describe and identify biodiversity, discover how species are adapted to the marine environment, and investigate the impacts of climate change on marine organisms. This course focuses on coral reefs, soft bottom habitats, open ocean, polar systems, rocky intertidal, sponge gardens, and deep sea.

The course uses a team-based learning approach that promotes the development of your research, communication, and teamwork skills. Students will gain hands-on experience in computing, wet lab practice, and fieldwork.

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Semester 3

Semester 3

The final phase of the course involves carrying out a research project on a choice of marine conservation issues in the UK or overseas. Projects are often carried out in association with an external partner organisation.

Compulsory Courses
Research Project in Marine Conservation (ZO5905)

60 Credit Points

The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of marine conservation and is undertaken under the supervision of a member of staff who is an expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the style of a scientific paper manuscript or of a consultancy report.

View detailed information about this course

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Our programme incorporates a wide range of learning formats, including talks from invited experts; individual and group research; and field, laboratory and computer exercises, as well as traditional lectures and seminars. Many of the activities are designed to enhance communication and teamwork skills in a variety of settings.

The programme provides opportunities to engage with staff from Marine Scotland, SNH and JNCC, as well as professionals from NGOs and the private sector, representing environmental consulting firms, for example. The programme also incorporates non-curricular workshops on improving employability, such as CV writing.

Aberdeen is well situated for providing students with learning opportunities outside the classroom, including:

  • Outdoor field work at the University’s field station and research sites
  • Tours of marine industry facilities, including Aberdeen Harbour, aquaculture sites and fish markets
  • Access to laboratories that monitor water quality, fish health and fisheries
  • Tours of Marine Scotland’s fleet of research vessels
  • Obtaining the certifications required for seagoing research

The research project is one of the main highlights of the programme, drawing together the knowledge and skills you have acquired to address a specific research question under the supervision of one or more experts in the field.

Projects can be field-based, laboratory-based or desk-based according to individual learning objectives, and can be undertaken in a variety of locations.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops

Assessment Methods

The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment: there are no exams. The degree programme is assessed using a range of formats, including written reports, oral presentations, posters, online tests, open book assessments, literature reviews, blogs, marine conservation consultation response, participation in stakeholder workshop, project plan, and the research project report.

Why Study Marine Conservation?

There has been a rapid expansion of marine conservation initiatives in recent years, as governments have responded to public pressure and international drivers for better management of marine environments, yet there remain significant challenges to conserving marine biodiversity.

It is vital that there are highly trained marine conservation professionals to ensure that issues are properly understood and management proposals are well conceived. By studying Marine Conservation at the University of Aberdeen, you will gain a deep understanding of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, the effects of human activities on them, and how management measures can be developed, as well as a suite of cutting-edge skills to put theory into practice.

The University of Aberdeen is particularly well placed to deliver this programme because:

  • Courses are delivered by internationally renowned academics, government scientists, teaching fellows and marine resource managers;
  • Aberdeen is the centre of a variety of marine activities and the programme offers interaction with a range of industries, including aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and renewable energy;
  • You will develop skills such as statistical analysis, mathematical modelling and geographical information systems, making you more attractive to prospective employers;
  • You will gain essential research skills, including project planning, literature reviewing, data collection, analysis and interpretation, which will be beneficial to your future career;
  • You will have guest lectures from statutory nature conservation bodies, environmental NGOs, industry, and government;
  • You will have the opportunity to engage with staff from the Scottish Government’s marine department: Marine Scotland, go on tours of their fleet of research vessels, and collaborate with them for research projects;
  • Aberdeen is within easy reach of a range of marine environments, habitats and species – bottlenose dolphins are one of the more spectacular species regularly seen from the Aberdeen shoreline.

What Our Students Say

Jack Mills

Jack Mills

Jack Mills

Lecturers and guest speakers are always helpful and ready to answer questions about coursework and materials covered in lectures and our research. Each unit offers something new, and helped to develop appropriate skills for our future career.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

A UK 2:1 honours degree (or international equivalent), in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant subject; applicants with a 2ii (or equivalent), particularly with some relevant experience, may also be considered. We also consider individuals with degrees in a wider range of disciplines who are clearly motivated by the programme and have some relevant experience.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £21,500
Tuition Fees for 2021/22 Academic Year
Home / RUK £10,200
Tuition Fees for 2021/22 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding Opportunities

The following options are available to support your studies.

  • Industrial sponsorship: Each year a trust fund from the fishing industry provides three bursaries worth £1000 for students studying the programme.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

Aberdeen Global Scholarship (EU)

The Aberdeen Global Scholarship is open to European Union (EU) students.

This is a £2,000 tuition fee discount available to eligible self-funded Postgraduate Masters students who are classed as International fee status and are domiciled in the EU, plus another £3,000 discount for eligible Postgraduate Masters students who would have previously been eligible for Home fees (Scottish/EU) fee status.

View Aberdeen Global Scholarship


The programme will prepare you for employment with the range of organisations involved in marine conservation, such as statutory conservation bodies, other government departments, environmental consultancies, and non-governmental organisations, by aligning training in skills and expertise with employer’s needs, and helping you to establish a network of professional contacts.

The research skills you will acquire will provide a foundation for further training in academic research. The knowledge and skills developed in the programme will also be applicable in fields of environmental assessment or resource management beyond marine conservation.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has published an analysis of the “most wanted” postgraduate and professional skills in the ecological and environmental sector. Our MSc programme has been specifically designed to provide you with many of these sought after skills so that you are highly competitive in whatever career you choose to follow.

In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills, the activities within our programme are designed to provide you with ample opportunity to develop generic skills required by employers, including communication in a variety of modes, critical thinking, problem-solving, team work, numeracy, data management, modelling, time management, and interdisciplinarity.

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Marine Conservation Adviser
  • Marine Policy Officer
  • Postgraduate Researcher

Industry Links

Our marine scientists collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world. Research projects are often hosted by partner organisations and therefore focus on issues of real-world relevance. Partners include:

  • International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
  • Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland
  • Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust
  • South Atlantic Research Institute
  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Research Impact

Professor Paul Thompson and his team have been instrumental in mitigating the impacts of offshore installations on marine mammals in EU protected areas.

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What our Alumni Say

Hannah Webster

Hannah Webster

Hannah Webster

Graduated 2018

One of the most interesting aspects of the marine conservation course to me was the opportunity to talk to and learn from the variety of guest speakers who came to lecture us. This alongside the practicals at the Marine Scotland Science lab allowed us to gain insight into the numerous fields within marine conservation. I also enjoyed the time I got to spend at the lighthouse field station in Cromarty.

Our Experts

This programme will be delivered by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of internationally renowned experts in marine ecology and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Other Experts
Professor Paul Thompson
Professor Beth Scott
Dr Kara Layton
Programme Coordinator
Dr Philip Smith

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


The University of Aberdeen has the range of facilities to support academic study and scientific research that you would expect in a large modern university, and in addition has particular facilities and features that are especially well suited to a programme in marine conservation. Three examples are listed below.

Image for Lighthouse Field Station
Lighthouse Field Station

Lighthouse Field Station

The Lighthouse Field Station is located in Cromarty, at the tip of the Black Isle. It has the dual aim of undertaking and supporting research and integrating this work into teaching and outreach activities.

Find out more

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX